By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Although Austin Cindric didn’t accomplish his goal at Talladega Superspeedway, he did leave with a comfortable cushion.
The driver of the No. 22 CARQUEST Ford Mustang had a goal to leave the Ag-Pro 300 locked into the next round of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs. Cindric appeared on course to checking that box, running 55-points ahead of the cutoff while in the back of the pack. He needed to leave Talladega 56-points up.
However, as almost the entire field slowed to pit on lap 76, Cindric’s race came to an abrupt end. The Team Penske driver was tagged from behind. The impact sent Cindric spinning head-on into the inside wall, ending his day. At the same time, both Austin Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt suffered similar fates.
“It looked like the whole pack was going to try to stop there and I felt like that was chaos, especially with how far back in the pack we were,” explained Cindric. “I just got smoked from behind. I had no chance of making it to pit road. It is really unfortunate. Obviously, we hit the wall a ton.
“I really wanted to have a great run for our CARQUEST Ford Mustang and their first race on the car for us. It is really cool to have them back in the sport. We ran up front all day.”
Cindric was 35th when the checkered flag waved. He moved up one spot after Michael Annett was disqualified. Leaving Talladega, Cindric has a 43-point cushion over the cutoff for the Playoffs, held by Ross Chastain. He’s 50-points ahead of Harrison Burton, the first driver on the outside looking in.
The first half of the race was dominated by Cindric and his Ford Performance teammate, Chase Briscoe. While Briscoe won both Stages in his No. 98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang, Cindric took the runner-up spot. The 18-points Cindric earned added to his points cushion.
In the final stage, the two Ford drivers were hung out to dry by the pack. The slipped to the tail-end of the line, far away from the battle for the lead.
“Unfortunately, circumstances kept me and the 98 from being up front with the way the slower cars stayed out,” Cindric continued. “The way it worked out we went straight to the back and didn’t even have a chance. I can’t even say that we put ourselves back there. It really sucks but it is part of this type of racing. We were hoping to get ourselves locked into the next round today, but we will have to go fight for it next week.”
Cindric’s sizable cushion will allow the 22-year-old to breathe easier as the Xfinity Series returns to one of his best tracks. Next up for the series is the Drive for the Cure 250 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. Cindric won the most recent Roval-style race at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course.
Photo by NKP/ NKP Photo